When things get busy at work, the stress can put you into “frantic mode.” The way to deal with this stress is to turn “frantic mode” into “ready mode,” where you feel ready to handle whatever turns up. Here’s how.
Step 1: Prioritize. One study found that people who react the same way to everything have double the level of stress hormones. Instead, prioritize issues by their degree of urgency. Deal with the most urgent things first. Anything that poses a physical threat–to you, loved ones, colleagues, or property–is clearly the most urgent situation to handle. Family crises come next. In business, things that most impact the revenue stream take priority, along with relationship difficulties with clients, vendors, or employees. Take care of these challenges before you spend time and energy on less urgent ones. As you put those aside, remind yourself it’s okay for now if they’re not perfect. This is also the time to identify issues beyond your control and take them off the list.
Step 2: Prepare for busy times. When things are busy, stress comes from having to make so many decisions. The more choices you have to make, the more you exhaust your ability to make good decisions. As you prepare for busy times, find ways to reduce your daily decisions. Plan your week at the start, deciding what has to be done and when. Automate regular activities by scheduling them as recurring items in your calendar. Keep things you need for certain activities, like workouts, in one place so you won’t have to gather them each time. Hide temptations, such as food or the TV remote, and put your smartphone on “Do Not Disturb”. The goals are to reduce the number of decisions you make and to find ways to make those decisions more easily.
Step 3: Turn off the internal monologue. When things get busy, it can set off a monologue in your head—” What’s really going on here? Can I handle it? What if I can’t?” This immediately raises your stress level. Fearing catastrophe gives you tunnel vision, making it harder to meet challenges with solutions. An effective way to get out of this predicament is to externalize: focus on someone else, such as the folks you’re working with or working for. Consider what they need, what they may be feared, and how you can help. This compassionate response quiets your internal monologue and lets you take in a wider range of information, opening up more possibilities and allowing for better decisions. When you get out of your own head, you leave behind the stress that internal monologue causes.
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